Vintage poolside vibes
Sep 16, 2020 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
I’ve been watching a lot of Esther Williams movies lately. As someone who can’t swim, I find her poise in the water inspiring. Against luxurious backdrops, she fearlessly dived and danced into the deep blue (with flawless makeup and a winning smile to boot!). The plots of her films blend romance, music, and humor – a soothing combination during these strange times. For those vintage mavens who need a refresh, Williams career started during the 1940s. An accomplished swimmer, she was prepared to add Olympian to her list of accomplishments when WWII broke out. During times of struggle, the entertainment industry steps into the gap (think about Shirley Temple’s impact during the Great Depression or Netflix during 2020) and wartime was certainly no different. It’s estimated that folks were attending movie theaters on a weekly basis, so Hollywood stars became the ultimate trendsetters for a generation. With her Olympic dreams shattered, Williams used her swimming talents to land a performing gig. MGM executives caught her show one night and soon our beloved mermaid was bound for the cinematic spotlight. Her films even belong to their own genre, aqua-musical. Williams glamorous poolside lifestyle proved too alluring to be contained. Soon it escaped the big screen and helped fuel a post-war home swimming pool craze. Come along and let’s explore some of these vintage poolside vibes together!
As Williams was swimming into America’s heart the pool industry made a big stride: gunite. This innovation drastically reduced cost and it also expanded design possibilities. After the war, soldiers returned home and many were buying homes thanks to the GI Bill. This real estate boom meant that the Esther Williams glamour wasn’t exclusive to Hollywood. Women coast-to-coast were donning their swimsuits and grabbing a lemonade for a day of lounging poolside. It was around this time that the kidney shaped pool (the epitome of mid-century chill) debuted. The Donnell pool (as it was first called) was an immediate sensation. Designed by Thomas Church, the groovy pool became the cornerstone of “California Style.” Pools before 1948 were sold in one shape – rectangular – but now the possibilities felt endless. Pools captured the joie de vivre that defined the 1950s. One could argue that no one city embodied this feeling of hope & glamour better than Palm Springs, California.
The playground of the rich and famous, it was a magnet for the Hollywood “it” crowd. Sinatra, Crosby, Martin, all the big names either owned real estate in Palm Springs or visited there often. Fun fact: Palm Springs became such an important zip code because during the heyday of Hollywood executives required their stars to be within two hours of the studio. The city became like a haven and the locals adhered to an unwritten rule: don’t bother the visitors! The most popular entertainers of the day could go about their business with relative ease and normalcy. Part of that daily routine was relaxing poolside. Whether at El Mirador Hotel or in their own backyard, Esther William’s influence spread like pixie dust over this desert oasis. Let’s catch some vintage poolside vibes with our curated look book and tell us which pool is your favorite in the comments…